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As a Canadian expat living in Sydney, vacation time usually means taking advantage of the (relatively speaking) nearby continent of Asia to explore and discover lands, culture, food and beaches previously seriously far-flung from my home and native land of Toronto. Sun-seeking and beach lolling is practically a God-given right for us Canadians, as we suffer through months of a horribly dreary, frigid and generally miserable winter season

When my husband suggested we take a long weekend trip to New Zealand, I initially felt lukewarm at best; from what I had heard, it was beautiful, yes, but astonishingly majestic mountain vistas and clean, fresh air isn’t enough of a draw for me — I’ve been spoiled with natural treasures like that all my life, and always choose swimming in the sea, tropical fruit and sunshine above all else.

Thankfully, I changed my attitude and we hopped on a short flight to Wellington, the country’s capital, where I enjoyed one of the most fantastically fun getaways in recent memory. Lonely Planet dubbed it “The world’s coolest little capital in the world”, and I am absolutely in agreeance.

Below, my newfound favourite places to eat, drink, shop and revel in the rich culture of wonderful Wellington.

QT Museum, Wellington



With more per capita coffee bean roasters than anywhere else in the world, it’s safe to say a good, strong and perfectly calibrated cappuccino is a given anywhere in the city. I happened to have a special place in my heart for Kaffee Eis, a small and local chain of café’s that specializes in authentic and delicious gelato, coffee and in-house baked goods. Warm, super friendly and genuine service and a charity program makes every visit feel as good as it tastes.

One of my favourite and most memorable meals enjoyed (and there were many;

Wellington has more cafés, bars and restaurants per capita than New York City!) was at Hot Sauce, a new, funky fusion hotspot in the QT Museum Wellington. A mash up of Singaporean, Japanese, Korean and Thai flavours made for insanely unique and enticing dishes with flair, only lacking pretention. Low ceiling lighting is cleverly decorated with giant dumpling steamers, and golden lucky cats line the wall for a kitschy meets glam vibe thanks to the grand bar and modern touches. As for the dishes? Well prepared, sumptuous and fresh flavours were unfussy and yet extraordinary at once. The same can be said for the cocktail program: with a desire to create and craft specialty drinks that truly impress and positively please taste buds, enjoy a few to compliment the dishes or just to simply indulge in.

For a night out, cruise along the main drag at Courtenay Place, which is lined with bar after bar and restaurant after restaurant. The Dakota offer cheap thrills for cowboys and girls via drink deals, a mechanical bull that you can test your bravado and balance on for free, saddles for bar seats and twangy country crooners on soundtrack to truly transport for a lighthearted start (or end) to the night. If a secretive, cozy cocktail bar is more your speed, I loved CGR Merchants, which is perched up a set of easily concealed stairs and infuses countless spirits with surprising combinations, like gingerbread infused gin, or passionfruit ice cream infused dark rum, to handcraft specialty sips in a cozy and chill atmosphere.

Eat & Drink | Hot Sauce


Located in the outdoor Cuba Street Mall, Emporium was a favourite thanks to its

perfectly balanced blend of vintage (all in mint condition and graciously void of that unmistakable musty-scent ever-present in many vintage stores around the globe) hand-picked and sourced from overseas to ensure everything is in excellent condition and truly worthy of display and sale. The friendly and obviously passionate (but never pushy) owner was there on two occasions I visited the shop, and was sweet enough to strike up a deal and sell me a vintage display that wasn’t supposed to be for sale. Power to the locally owned and run shop!

To appease my endless appetite for all things beauty, WORLD, established in Auckland and now boasting the title of one of the country’s leading fashion houses, seamlessly packs in an incredibly curated selection of rare, under the radar beauty brands alongside their collection. An almost dizzying array of fragrance, skincare and candles for both men and women line clean white shelves and beautiful white marble tables, one more niche than the next.


Wake up and start your day immersed in art and culture by staying at the QT Museum Wellington. Quite literally a museum, this design-driven and perfectly situated harbourside stay packs wall-to-wall high and low brow art that has been spectacularly curated to evoke an effortless yet luxe sense of cool. Every space, from the lobby to the highly-acclaimed French restaurant Hippopotamus to the secret hidden billiards room, oozes next level creativity, colour, and modernity with serious chicness (and not even a hint of pomposity).

Directly across the street is the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa. The six story building houses exhibits that honour Māori and Pacific cultural treasures, historical artifacts, and the country’s incredible wildlife. The interactive and engaging displays incorporate new and digital technology while celebrating the rich culture of the land and its people. For an outdoor cultural indulgence, I found myself in a dream-like state winding up and down the steep and insanely lush Botanic Garden. Sprawling and diverse in plant species from both local and international heritage, it was literally a huge, beautiful breath of fresh air to discover and while away the afternoon when a break from the amazing cityscape and getting back to nature was in order.

CULTURE | QT Museum, Wellington

CULTURE | Hippopotamus Restaurant

CULTURE | Hippopotamus Restaurant Cocktails

CULTURE | Hippopotamus Restaurant

CULTURE | QT Museum Wellington

CULTURE | QT Museum, Wellington


Written by Aimee Wice, TLSE Travel and Beauty Contributor

Images provided.

Curated by Taylor Musa, TLSE


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